I recently had a text chat conversation with an online acquaintance of mine, a wonderful fellow who shall not be named. My perception of him was shaken, however, when he concluded our spirited exchange about how to manage complexity in visual representations with the word “bye.”
Only that he did not, in fact, write “bye.” I was about to get comfortable for some football watching1 and completely shellshocked by his mastery of German football mockery – not to mention the fact that we never discussed football or my affliction to the game. Talk about a non sequitur.
He wrote “Freilos!” which is a rather popular (among fans of the beautiful game) German reference to a cup fixture, where one team is deemed enough of a pushover to claim that the game need not be played in the first place.
And if you, my dear readers, are as puzzled as I was, chances are you are either not a native speaker of English, as am I, or not a sports fan. Because the solution why my conversation partner chose this strangest of greetings is that computers are stupid. Stupider still, if algorithms have to operate out of context.
Because when entering the word “bye” into Google translate, “Freilos” is the first hit that the machine spits out for German. Whoever programs an algorithm to rank an obscure sports term above the most commonly used English signal to end a conversation, I take my hats2 off to you master prankster. The payoff may be rare, but, oh so sweet.
It just so happens that “bye” is a homograph. Never send a machine to do a human’s job.